Now, here’s what I call accessibility!

A little shout-out to my alma mater, University of Illinois. Yesterday morning my Seeing Eye dog Whitney and I took a train from Chicago to Champaign to give a guest lecture there, and on the way down I took time to check out a new website I’d heard about on Illinois Public Media a few weeks ago.Photo of City of New Orleans Train, which makes a stop in Champaign, Illinois Here’s the deal: undergraduate and graduate students studying special education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have put together a website ranking local businesses on how accessible they are to people with disabilities.

Plenty of restaurants claim they are accessible, but what does that mean, exactly?? This new Access Urbana-Champaign website spells it all out. Every one of the 100-plus local restaurants, cafes, and bakeries featured on the site are rated based on a 25-point survey, and the answers are posted right there on the site for all to see. Or in my case, hear.

Once I was done giving my guest lecture yesterday afternoon, I’d arranged to meet a friend at a place near the train station called Esquire Lounge. I went ahead and checked how well it ranked, and…wow! Excellent. I mean, that’s what it ranked: excellent! Just to give you a better idea how the Access Urbana-Champaign site works, here’s an example of what I found there — about the questions the students asked on their survey, and the answers they came up with about Esquire Lounge:

Accesibility Survey Details

Is there at least one designated accessible parking space in restaurant’s private lot?

N/A

If no, is there at least one public accessible parking space within 1 block?

Yes

Is this restaurant located on or near a public bus route?

Yes

Is the entrance to the restaurant accessed by level ground?

Yes

If not, is the entrance to the restaurant accessed by a low-incline ramp 36 inches wide?

N/A

Is the entrance threshold less than 3/4 inches tall?

N/A

Is the doorway clearance at least 32 inches wide?

Yes

Can the entrance door be opened with limited grasp?

Yes

Are there aisles and pathways between chairs or tables that are 36 inches wide?

Yes

Are all of the condiments accessible on counters that are within 36 inches in height and within arm length of 25 inches from edge?

Yes

Do any of the tables offer 27 inches (from the ground) for knee space?

Yes

Is a menu offered in Braille or large print?

No

Does the restaurant welcome people with disabilities with service animals as required by ADA?

Yes

Do all fire and emergency alarms in public areas have both audible and visual signals?

Yes

Is there signage to indicate accessible restrooms?

Yes

Can the restroom door be opened with minimal force / limited grasp?

Yes

Does the doorway leading to the restroom(s) have at least 32 inches of clearance space?

Yes

Is the aisle-way leading up to the accessible stall at least 42 inches wide?

Yes

Does the accessible stall door have at least 32 inches of clearance space?

Yes

Is the toilet seat 17 inches to 19 inches above the floor?

Yes

Are there grab bars behind and on the side wall nearest the toilet?

Yes

Measured length the interior of the stall space.

96″

Measured width the interior of the stall space.

60″

Is the counter with wash basin no higher than 34 inches from the floor?

Yes

Is there 27 inches of knee clearance under the sink?

Yes

Are soap and other dispensers no higher than 48 inches from the floor [at the point where the product is dispensed]

Yes

Can faucets be operated with a closed fist?

Yes

 

If they had a question like, “Are all these accessibility efforts a turn-off to your patrons?” the answer would be a resounding “no!”

We were there before 7 p.m. on a Tuesday, which is not exactly a party time, and the place was full of customers of all ages and all sorts. Before we left, my friend and I checked out the public restroom. Whitney guided me to the larger accessible stall and…thumbs up! Before I left to catch my train back to Chicago, I made a point to compliment the manager, and he said he was proud of their high ranking. Pretty cool.


 

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